With 121/2 minutes left in last night's game against Maryland, Virginia seemed headed for another in a long string of road losses. The Terrapins owned a 65-53 lead -- and eighth-ranked teams don't often blow 12-point leads, especially to opponents with such demonstrated ineffectiveness away from home.
But the Cavaliers, unlike in so many of their road games this season, kept fighting. Six three-pointers by Devin Smith and Jermaine Harper over the next 81/2 minutes pushed Virginia in front, 75-69. Four minutes later, the Cavaliers had an 86-78 win, their first ACC road victory since January 2002.
"It was just our night, when we're hitting threes like that," Virginia Coach Pete Gillen said. "They were swish, they were dead bottom."
Virginia (13-7, 4-4 ACC) finished with a season-high 12 three-pointers on 22 attempts, including five from Smith and two apiece from Harper, Todd Billet and Elton Brown.
"Going into the game, besides Billet, they hadn't been particularly effective from the three-point line," Maryland Coach Gary Williams said. "We gave them some looks, they made them and they got their confidence. I've seen that happen before."
Junior tri-captain Majestic Mapp, who helped Billet run the offense in the absence of suspended point guard Keith Jenifer, said that confidence was key for the Cavaliers, who had lost six of their seven road games this season.
"We just didn't relax," said Mapp, who scored 11 points in 19 minutes. "Other games we'd get down and we'd relax and think the game's over. Today we just showed maturity. I think for the first time this season besides the [Maui Invitational] we showed maturity.
"We picked each other up and we just got better as a team."
Virginia's 22-4 surge started when Smith (17 points) hit his second three-pointer, spotting up from the wing after Travis Watson rebounded a teammate's missed jumper. Smith hit another on the next possession while falling down to cut the Maryland lead to 65-59.
The Terrapins (14-5, 6-2) led by eight a few minutes later, but they left Smith alone for another three-pointer from the wing. He added his fourth with seven minutes remaining, slicing the Maryland lead to 69-67 and prompting Gillen -- kneeling, as always, on the sideline -- to slap the floor in excitement and exhort his team to complete the comeback.
Harper fulfilled that request on the next possession with a three-pointer from in front of the Virginia bench. Maryland's lead was gone for good.
"Coming into this game we knew we had a chance to win if we played our game, even though everybody expected us to lose," Smith said.
Said Harper: "In practice, Coach said we needed 10 threes tonight. Everybody was confident. Hopefully we can continue to hit big shots for the rest of the season."